If you’re planning a trip to Vietnam you may have heard about a place called Ninh Binh. Located in northern Vietnam, Ninh Binh has stunning natural landcapes, historical sites, and cultural attractions. Often referred to as the “Ha Long Bay on land”, Ninh Binh has spectacular limestone karsts and stunning natural landscapes. I recently spent some time in Ninh Binh so keep reading to find out what you need to know about visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam.
Where is Ninh Binh
Ninh Binh is a province located in northern Vietnam, about 90 km south of Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. The entire province is about 535 square miles. When you hear people talking about visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam, they are actually referring to just a small part of the province of Ninh Binh.
The area of Ninh Binh where people visit is located about 5 miles outside of the center of town. Trang An and Tam Coc are the places where most people stay and where the majority of activities are. That area is in the red dot you see on the map below.
Is Ninh Binh Worth a visit?
Visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam is definitely worth it. The area has breathtaking scenery and a rich cultural heritage giving visitors an opportunity to learn more about the history of Vietnam while enjoying a serene setting. There are beautiful landscapes, impressive architecture, and a tranquil countryside to relax in. Much different from the chaotic cities of Hanoi and Saigon.
10 of the Best things to do in Ninh Binh
There is so much to do in and around Ninh Binh from exploring the natural scenery to experiencing the local culture. Ninh Binh was one of our favorite places in Vietnam. Below are some of the top things to do when visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam.
Trang An Boat Tour
The Trang An boat tour is one of the most popular things to do in Ninh Binh, if not the most popular thing to do. Trang An is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for it’s complex system of caves and canals. There are several boat routes to choose from and each lasts 2-3 hours. You’ll travel through caves and explore several temples along the routes.
Read all about the Trang An Boat Tour. Everything you need to know!
Bai Dinh Pagoda
The Bai Dinh Pagoda is a massive Buddhist temple complex consisting of ancient and modern structures and is considered one of the most important Buddhist sites in Vietnam. There are impressive stone and bronze statues throughout the site including more than 500 carved statues of Buddha. Open 6am – 6pm daily and entrance is free although you will have to pay for parking.
Tam Coc Boat Ride Through Rice Paddies
The Tam Coc boat tour is a scenic boat ride through picturesque limestone karsts and rice paddies. The boats are typically rowed by local women who sometimes use their feet to row. Warning…it will be busy during the high travel season so be aware. The ride lasts about 2 hours and is the perfect opportunity to explore the natural beauty of Vietnam.
Hoa Lu Ancient Capital
Hoa Lu was once known as the capital of Vietnam from 968 to 1010AD. The location for the capital was a strategic choice due to the natural defenses of the larsts and rice fields. Hoa Lu is the perfect place to explore the Vietnam culture through its historical sites, ancient temples, and royal palaces. Hoa Lu is open 7am to 5pm daily and the entrance fee is 20,000 VND or just under $1.
Bich Dong Pagoda
Bich Dong Pagoda is a Buddhist temple located in the Tam Coc area. Built in the 15th century, there are three separate structures built into the limetone mountains. You’ll climb up a stone staircase from the Ha (Lower) pagoda through the Trung (Middle) Pagoda, and finally the Thuong (Upper) Pagoda which sites near the top of the mountain. Bich Dong is open all day and is free to visit. Photos of Bich Dong was what made me add visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam to our list.
Van Long Nature Reserve
The Van Long Nature Reserve is a protected area of caves, wetlands, and limestone karsts. It’s home to a diverse range of flora and flora, endangered primates, and various birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Enjoy a peaceful boat ride through the reserve where you can spot wildlife and learn more about the local ecosystem. Open 8am-6pm daily, tickets to visit Van Long Nature Reserve are less than $1 while the boat ride is around $3.
Bicycle Ride through the Rice Fields
Ninh Binh has beautiful natural landscapes, including rice fields. From May to October these terraced rice fields are a vibrant shade of green surrounded by limestone mountains. Exploring these fields by bicycle is an opportunity to observe the lives of local farmers and interact with the community. Most hostels and hotels in the area will have bikes available to rent for a few dollars.
FREE – $2 (BIke)
Mua Cave Viewpoint Hike
Also known as Hang Mua, this hike is famous for its panoramic views of the area. The climb up to the top is 500 steps. About halfway up you’ll have to decide which path to take first. The left goes up to the dragon statue at the top of the mountain and the right path leads to a pagoda. Either way, you should definitely do both. Mua Cave is open from 6am-7pm. Visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam would not be complete without a Hang Mua hike!
Read all about the Hang Mua hike in Ninh Binh.
Cuc Phuong National Park
The oldest National Park in Vietnam, Cuc Phuong is known for it’s rich biodiversity encompassing a range of ecosystems. Tropical rainforests and evergreen forests support a diverse habitat of plant and animal species. There’s also an Endangered Primate Rescue Center at Cuc Phuong. There are trails for hiking, bike tours through the forest, and tours for spotting wildlife and bird watching. The park is open everyday from 6am – 10pm.
Am Tien Lake and Pagoda
Located just 10 minutes from Trang An, Am Tien Lake is associated with a mythical princess who would visit the lake to bathe and relax. There are stairs that lead up to the Am Tien cave, also known as the “Dragon Cave”, where you will pass the Am Tien Pagoda which dates back more than 1000 years. You’ll have a great view of the lake and moutains from the top.
Ninh Binh Attractions
|TRANG AN||TAM COC||VAN LONG||CUC PHUONG|
|Boat Tour||Boat Tour||Nature Reserve||National Park|
|Hoa Lu Ancient|
|Rice Fields||Dich Long Cave |
|Am Tien Lake||Bich Dong Pagoda||Bai Dinh Pagoda|
|Hang Mua Temple|
How to get to Ninh Binh
The biggest city closest to Ninh Binh is Hanoi, which is about 90km north of Ninh Binh. There is no airport in Ninh Binh so you have to arrive by land. Vietnam has a really extensive public transportation service throughout the country so getting from one place to another is quite easy.
There are dozens of buses that you can book yourself online that travel to Ninh Binh from anywhere in the country. I’ve used 12go.asia to book my seat on buses throughout Vietnam. Different bus companies are listed there and you just pick one that looks good to you. I usually look to make sure the reviews of the bus company I choose are good first. A bus will be the most budget friendly option. A 2 hour bus from Hanoi to Ninh Binh will cost around $5.
The second option is to take a train to Ninh Binh. Just like the bus service, there are trains that run throughout Vietnam. A train ticket from Hanoi will cost around $15. You can search for and buy train tickets in Vietnam at Vietnam Train Tickets.
If you only have 1 day to visit Ninh Binh, you can opt for a tour. Hanoi has a lot of tour companies that have day trips to Ninh Binh. Viator has dozens of options for tours to Ninh Binh, each doing different things so make sure you get one that has all the things you want to do. You likely won’t be able to do everything in just one day but you should be able to find a tour that will take you to the places you want to go.
Best time for visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam
The weather in Vietnam is not the same throughout the country. It can be incredibly hot and humid in Saigon while mild and cool up north in Hanoi. You’re likely not coming to Vietnam just to visit Ninh Binh so it’s hard to plan for the best weather throughout the country. But, it’s still a good idea to know what the weather might be like when you plan to visit so you can prepare.
Summer in Ninh Binh
Summer in Ninh Binh runs from May to October. During this time it is hot and humid. It’s also the rainy season. During this time the rice paddies are a vivid green. The lotus flowers are at the height of blooming from May-July. Temperatures during the summer range from 25°-34° C or 77°-93° F.
Autumn in Ninh Binh
From September to October the weather starts cooling down. This is still the rainy season so you’ll definitely want to bring umbrellas. This is also the time of wet rice harvesting so you should get to witness this. Temperatures range between 22°-31° C or 71°-87°F during this time.
Winter in Ninh Binh
Winter in Ninh Binh runs from November to March. It’s cooler and dry and the temperatures range from 13°-26° C or 33°-78° F. You’re likely to have a little rain, fog, and clouds during this time. You’ll need to plan for wearing layers during this time because it will get cold at night.
Spring in Ninh Binh
From February to April the weather starts to warm up in Ninh Binh. It’s still fairly dry and temperatures range from 16°-27° C or 61°-80° F. During February and March Vietnam celebrates the Lunar New Year so you might have the opportunity to experience festivals if you visit during this time. During the spring, it will be mostly cloudy but minimal rain. The rainy season will start in April.
How many days do you need to visit Ninh Binh
If you want to see everything I have listed here then you will need a minimum of 3 days visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam to do so. Those will be very busy days if you have plans to do it all but it’s definitely possible.
If you only have 2 days to spend in Ninh Binh then you should still be able to see quite a bit but you will likely have to skip one of the two major boat tours and a few other things.
If you choose to visit Ninh Binh Vietnam on a day trip from Hanoi or on a tour, you will likely only be able to do 2-3 things.
Getting Around Ninh Binh
There are plenty of taxis hanging out everywhere to help you get around. There’s no need to rent a vehicle because a taxi is very budget friendly.
If you’re going to be visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam for more than 2 days, I highly recommend renting a scooter. It’s the cheapest and best way to get around. Of course if you aren’t comfortable with the idea of driving a motorbike then the taxi will be the best option.
Are you planning a trip to Vietnam? Check out my 2 week Vietnam Itinerary. It includes a visit to Ninh Binh.
Best area to stay in Ninh Binh
The two main areas to stay at when visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam is either Trang An or Tam Coc. They are only about a 15 minute drive from each other but are completely different.
Trang An is a beautiful area and you’ll be surrounded by limestone karsts but there are less options for accomodations and restaurants. Everything is more spread out and you will definitely need to take taxis to go out to eat.
Tam Coc is the most popular area to stay in. It’s located in the countryside but has a lot of options for restaurants and shopping. There are hotels, hostels, and homestays in Tam Coc and you can walk to restaurants.
Trang An Accomodations
Less than 2 miles from the Tran An Complex is the Fairy Mountain Retreat. I seriously want to go back just to stay here! It sits back in the mountains surrounded by water, has an outdoor pool, a fitness center, a restaurant and bar. Just $45 for a large king room. Yes, this price is considered luxury in Vietnam.
The Trang an Bungalow is less than 1.5 miles to the Hoa Lu Ancient Capital and about 3 miles from the Trang An Complex. There’s a pool on site, a bar, and a restaurant. Just $30 for a large king room with mountain views.
Budget & Homestay
There’s not a ton of hostels in the area but there are Homestays which are fairly close minus the dorm style rooms. The best part is the price. Just $10 a night for a king bed with private bath and a lake view at the Blue Garden Homestay.
Another homestay just a few miles from the Trang An Complex is Tre Xanh Homestay. It has a restaurant, bar, garden area, and a private bathroom. A king room is just $8.
Tam Coc Accomodations
If you want to stay in a beautiful location and wake up to amazing views then consider staying at the Mua Caves Ecolodge. It’s about $85 a night and in a great location. The Hang Mua hike is right there on the property.
Another luxury property is the Tam Coc Garden Resort. You’ll be surrounded by rice paddy fields and right in the mountains. They do have a restaurant at the hotel but Tam Coc is just a 9 minute drive if you want to head into town. It’s the most expensive on the list at $175 a night.
At $35, it’s hard to believe that this is a mid-range priced hotel but it is. The Tam Coc Holiday Hotel & Villa is in a great location in Tam Coc so you can walk to restaurants and catch a taxi right outside your hotel.
For just $8 you can stay in a spacious room with a large bathroom at Tam Coc Guest House. It’s nothing fancy but it works and will leave you more money to see things. It also includes the use of bicycles.
For the same price of a budget accomodation you can stay at the Tuan Nam Homestay. You get a private bathroom, there’s a pool on the grounds, and it’s within walking distance to all the restaurants in Tam Coc.
Visiting Ninh Binh Vietnam Conclusion
Ninh Binh Vietnam is one of those hidden gems that you should not skip. There’s no shortage of things to do and the area is one of the most beautiful regions of Vietnam. It’s close to Hanoi so it’s easy to get to by bus, train, or a tour. Even if you can only go on a day trip, you will not regret it.